Sacramento Kings sale: Bankruptcy trustee could slow down process

Jared Wickerham

An interesting legal twist that could make the Kings move to Seattle more difficult emerged on Thursday.

David Flemner, a court-appointed trustee overseeing a 7-percent share of the Kings, told the Sacramento Bee on Thursday that he would go to court to ensure the Kings minority owners have the "right of first refusal" before the Maloofs can sell the organization.

Flemner's job is to recover as much money as possible to the creditors of Kings limited partner Bob Cook, which means finding the highest possible bidder for the 7 percent of the franchise that Cook owned. In the proposed sale to Chris Hansen's Seattle based group, that 7 percent would be valued at somewhere around $35-40 million.

But, under Flemner's reading of the limited partnership agreements, the Kings minority owners have the right to match or exceed a sale. That, in turn, would allow for a possible bidding war between Seattle and Sacramento-based investors.

With Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson reportedly lining up local "whales" like billionaire Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov in a last-ditch effort to keep the franchise, it's certainly possible for an offer higher than $340 million Hansen's group agreed to give the Maloofs to be put on the table.

The Maloofs, who own 65 percent of the Kings, don't agree with Flemner's position that a sale can be blocked. Flemner will get the chance to make his case at a hearing next Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento.

For now, it's another complication in a growing list of hurdles before the Kings can be moved.

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